RICHMOND – Nearly $100 million in campus upgrades has been shelled out by Earlham College in the last five years to draw in more students, but the school's enrollment over the same period has held steady, and annual tuition revenue has dropped substantially.
In the thick of mounting financial issues, underscored by $47 million in cumulative debtover the past several years, Earlham is seeking ways to drastically cut costs, boost enrollment and increase alumni donations to deal with its problems in the long-term, as well as the potential layoff of employees and cuts to programs.
Many questions still remain, however, about the college's spending decisions in recent years, and what impact, if any, campus improvements have directly had on the liberal arts school's ability to draw interest from around the United States and beyond.
The school has generally shared little about its financial problems with the public and much of its own alumni base, other than to acknowledge an issue exists and to explain basic numbers about the mounting debt and a rough outline of how the college plans to address the situation. The college shared that in an email blast sent last month to its alumni email list.
The blast also indicated tough decisions might lie ahead for the college, including possible cuts to faculty, staff and even some of Earlham's lesser-used programs and academic offerings.
However, the email sent by interim President Avis Stewart — the college's former leader, Alan Price, resigned in June after extensive discussions with the board about the college's future — also indicated Earlham is hopeful its investments in student life and other areas of campus will help the college recuperate financially in the long-term, though boosted enrollment figures and additional exposure.
Earlham spent nearly $100 million in academic, administrative and athletics facilities in the past few years, media relations director Brian Zimmerman said in an email. He was responding to a series of questions asked by the Palladium-Item, and whether upgrade expenditures might have played a role in the college's current financial situation.